Directed By: Tod Browning
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Helen Chandler, David manners, Herbert Bunston, Frances Dade
Synopsis: Doomed British businessman Renfield makes his way to Count Dracula’s castle to arrange the purchase of a London property, only to find his demise at the hands of a vampire. Count Dracula would then continue on to London, seeking new victims.
Thoughts: Wow, that synopsis seemed just ridiculous to write. Who doesn’t know the story of Count Dracula? This is was the first official film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, although German filmmaker F.W. Murnau had previously adapted it in 1922 as Nosferatu. He was then sued by the Stoker family and all prints of the film were supposed to have been destroyed, although it is readily available today.
As Dracula went through preproduction, it was a given the Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces would play the titular role, however, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and passed away prior to the film being made. It was quite the process for Lugosi to land the role, even though he was starring in the stage version already. Seemingly every actor in Hollywood was looked at before the studio begrudgingly named Lugosi the lead, in part because he agreed to a rather modest salary. It just goes to show you that Hollywood executives have never really known what they were doing.
A good portion of Dracula’s reputation is built on nostalgia. The first act of the film, taking place at Dracula’s castle is absolutely epic. There are so many great scenes, shots and lines that it is almost overwhelming. However, once Dracula heads to London, it fades some. I know I am being a little critical here, but watch it again and you will see what I mean. On top of that, I always feel a little robbed at the ending, with the off screen death of Dracula. As a whole though, Dracula is, and will always be a Hall of Fame horror film.
Dracula is essential viewing for horror fans, as it was the one-two punch of this and Frankenstein that vitalized the horror genre and saved Universal from bankruptcy. Thanks to those two, Universal would go on to bring us a ton of sequels, as well as The Mummy, Wolf Man and Creature. I just don’t see how the genre would be the same today.
The story of Dracula would go on to be told numerous times and is one of the most filmed characters in film history, along with Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. While I don’t believe this to be the best version out there, it is easily near the top. It isn’t often that I pimp DVD or Blu Rays on my site, but if you are a fan of the classic Universal Monsters, the Legacy Collections are an absolute must. The Dracula set contains the original, the Spanish version, Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula and House of Dracula and it can regularly be found for less than twenty bucks. Add it to your collection if you get the chance, it’s well worth it.